Some people live to work for the benefit of others, and through that benefit find balance and satisfaction.
Literacy Alberni’s Richard Girling, 29, was born in the town of Chelmsford, Essex County, England, a town about the same size as Nanaimo, he said.
Girling is one of six children, and has two brothers and three sisters. “I’m the second of six,” the married father of two said.
Girling attended elementary and high school in Suffolk, England. His favourite subjects were German and English and his favourite teacher was Mr. Heath, who taught German.
“He was a younger, energetic person that as young people we could relate to,” Girling said. “He made learning fun and inspired us to do well.”
Growing up, Girling didn’t want to be a digger man or a bus driver, and in later years he never aspired to be a doctor or lawyer. Instead, he wanted to do something to make the world a better place, he said.
He studied German and English at the University of Durham after graduating from high school then worked in Austria as part of a placement program for one year afterward.
Girling moved to Poland afterward. He taught English during the day but also learned Polish at the same time to quench his growing thirst with other languages.
It was during his stay in Poland that Girling’s events took a turn that would alter his life forever.
He would meet his bride-to-be Erin, who was staying with her brother in Poland. “I guess you could call it a random geography tale,” Girling said.
The pair moved to London, then to Florida for two years where they operated a yoga studio and vegetarian café.
The pair wanted more of a family life but couldn’t do it working 80 hours a week at their business so they planned a move.
Erin is originally from Victoria so they decided on the Island and settled on Port Alberni after finding a listing on craigslist.com. The two arrived in 2009.
The Valley seemed more remote than they thought at first; something that Girling changed his mind about later. “I enjoy being surrounded by nature and Sproat Lake so it was a good decision to move here,” he said.
He worked for a marketing company the first year he was here, but kept his interest in language satiated by tutoring at the literacy centre. “It can be different living in a new system even when you speak the language,” Girling said. “I understood that from living in Poland.”
Literacy is a core value of Girling’s. “It means reading and writing, but it’s also the ability to understand information,” he said. “If you improve your literacy skills it will benefit you for the rest of your life,” he said.
Girling has been the executive director of Literacy Alberni for the last two years but that’s about to change.
He’s leaving the position to pursue a masters degree. His last day of work is on June 1.
Girling’s greatest inspiration was his father Jonathan, who was a selfless man, he said. “I remember watching how much he enjoyed watching other people enjoy it,” Girling said.
“I still enjoy it when we get together but it’s harder now that we’re spread out.”
He’s reading Steve Jobbs: A Biography, and his favourite book is Animal Farm. “You notice things in the book that are in the world around you,” Girling said.
Girling watches movies several times a week, and counts Shawshank Redemption and Four Weddings and a Funeral.
“I like movies with irony in them,” he said.
If he could visit another time period it would be before the West Coast was colonized. “Mistakes were made and it would be nice to go back and do things differently,” he said.
The best advice Girling knows of isn’t something he was told but rather something he learned on his own. “Try not to get too frustrated by the things you can’t change,” he said. “People spend a lot of time stressing over the things they can’t change.”
Girling has sought to make the world a better place and in his own way he has, he said. “So long as I’m doing that I’ll be happy.”